Monday, November 26, 2012

Gifts of Depression

I've been thinking lately about how ironic it is that during the holiday's  - supposedly the most wonderful time of the year - most folks don't feel so wonderful.  The lights, the music, the merry making it all flies in the face of the dark storm many feel on the inside but wouldn't dare admit.  I would guess that a lot of us would like to hunker down under some blankets and hibernate until spring!

Recently I read (parts) of Thomas Moores book Care of the Soul.  My favorite sections are below where he discusses the gifts of depression.  I appreciate how Moore explains that when we try to deny these dark parts of ourselves (the blacks and grays) we loose out on the full range of all the colors in our lives.  In other words, by ignoring or minimizing the dark colors we begin to loose our appreciation for the vibrancy of the bright colors also.  Of course, sometimes we spiral so far down into the depths that we really might need a little help finding our way out again.  But I believe what Moore is referring to is sort of that run of the mill brand of depression that everyone faces from time to time.  Maybe if we could somehow normalize these dark patches instead of apologizing, hiding, feeling ashamed of them we would collectively become a healthier society!

"Chapter 7: Gifts of Depression," in Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992, ISBN: 0060165979, pp. 137-154.

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of gray, blue, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange - the brilliant colors. The "bright" idea of colorizing old black and white movies is consistent with our culture's general rejection of the dark and the gray. In a society that is defended against the tragic sense of life, depression will appear as an enemy, an unredeemable malady; yet in such a society, devoted to light, depression, in compensation, will be unusually strong.

Care of the soul requires our appreciation of these ways it presents itself. Faced with depression, we might ask ourselves, "What is it doing here? Does it have some necessary role to play?" Especially in dealing with depression, a mood close to our feelings of mortality, we must guard against the denial of death that is so easy to slip into. Even further, we may have to develop a taste for the depressed mood, a positive respect for its place in the soul's cycles.

Some feelings and thoughts seem to emerge only in a dark mood. Suppress the mood, and you will suppress those ideas and...
...reflections. Depression may be as important a channel for valuable "negative" feelings, as expressions of affection are for the emotions of love. Feelings of love give birth naturally to gestures of attachment. In the same way, the void and grayness of depression evoke an awareness and articulation of thoughts otherwise hidden behind the screen of lighter moods. Sometimes a person will come to a therapy session in a dark mood. "I shouldn't have come today," he will say. "I'll feel better next week, and we can get on with it." But I'm happy that he came, because together we will hear thoughts and feel his soul in a way not possible in his cheerful moods. Melancholy gives the soul an opportunity to express a side of its nature that is as valid as any other, but is hidden out of our distaste for its darkness and bitterness.

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